Mike's Mailbag: Try and Fly

Mike's Mailbag: Try and Fly

By Mike Gustafson//Contributor  | Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Every week, I answer questions from swimmers around the country. If you have a question, please email me at swimmingstories@gmail.com or ask me on Twitter @ MicGustafson.

Dear Mike,

This is my last season as a 12-year-old, and I really want to make my state cut in the 50 Fly, I know it is really early in the season, but I am afraid I will not get it. I am at a BB time at the moment, and I really try to work hard on fly sets during practice. But I am still afraid I will not make it before I turn 13, and won't be able to do the 50 Fly anymore.

                                              "Scared For Fly"


Hey Scared,

Whenever I get scared about not achieving my goals, I like to imagine the worst-case scenario. Not because I’m a “glass-half-empty” kind of guy (I’m not sure any pure pessimist could open a brick-and-mortar bookstore like I did in 2013) but because I don’t like surprises. Just like I prefer to feel prepared so I can achieve success, I also like to feel prepared so I can bounce back from failure.

So, imagine the worst-case scenario here: What if you didn’t achieve your state cut?

Of course, you would be disappointed. You would be sad. That much is obvious.

But what else?

You would likely ask yourself, “What could I have done differently?” You would look back to the past, to your training program and to your past season’s practices. You would reflect. You would analyze what you would have done differently — if anything.

And that’s the big point I’m trying to make here — that “if anything” part.

In all my years of successes and failures, I’ve learned one thing: Win, lose, or draw, if you can reflect on your journey and decide that you wouldn’t change anything, you’ve already won. No matter the result. In other words, if my bookstore ends up closing in 2025 and I have to get a new job, that would be a worst-case scenario. But if I can look back at this entire process and think, “I wouldn’t change a thing,” then even though I’d feel sadness, I’d still feel good about the journey.

Do everything you can, right now, to avoid future regret. When you turn 13, you don’t want to reflect about all those times you could have trained harder when you were 12. You don’t want to self-doubt your own journey.

The best advice I can give you? Don’t spend your life looking over your shoulder at the past. You might qualify for states. You might not. But decide right now: No matter what the end result will be, your journey to get there will be the same. You will train hard. You will have a good, positive mental attitude. You will try your best. And, win, lose, or draw, you will learn from the process, adjust, and move on.

Don’t be scared, Scared. Be excited. You have an opportunity to try your best. See how it goes. If your best doesn’t quite add up to a state cut, allow yourself to feel sad for a moment, then dust yourself off, get back up, and look forward to age 14 and another round of state cuts. Those who have success in life often point to their failures as learning points. Should you miss your state cut now, use that as even more motivation to achieve your state cut later.

Imagining worst-case scenarios may sound like a negative thing to do, but if you imagine it, savor it, and think about it, those worst-case scenarios stop sounding so scary. By acknowledging them, you can say, “Okay, maybe that will happen. But it still won’t affect what I’m doing right now.”

Try your best, Scared. Try and fly.

I hope this helps. 



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